Frantic price-cutting by clothing chains and DIY stores in the wake of March's cold weather has driven down high-street inflation to its lowest level for three and a half years, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Overall prices are just 0.4 per cent ahead of a year ago, according to its shop price inflation index. Non-food retailers are suffering worst as prices are down 1 per cent in the last year.
March was the second coldest on record, forcing shops to slash prices to tempt consumers into spring purchases. Clothing and DIY were worst hit amid poor demand for seasonal products, the BRC said. Babywear was the only clothing category which saw rising prices.
Helen Dickinson, the BRC's director general, said: "These figures suggest an increasing buzz of promotional activity as retailers attempt to stimulate demand in the face of continued weak spending and the squeeze on personal finances."
But the discounting appears to have had little effect as figures from Visa Europe, based on 1.9 billion card transactions, signalled a 2.5 per cent fall in consumer spending during April after three months of growth. Visa's commercial director, Steve Perry, said the overall picture was one of "slow growth" as online shopping continues to rise, but added: "Face-to-face retail spending was down 1.9 per cent, with the food and beverages, and clothing and footwear sectors particularly affected."